Friday, January 31, 2014

Gandhi On The BoB/Goonswarm Wars

I read with great concern yesterday about the shortage of Sun Tzu quotes facing EVE Online.  So in an effort to help out, I thought I'd share a quote I first heard yesterday.  The quote is from an unexpected source, though.  Not Sun Tzu, von Clausewitz, or even The Mittani.1 No, this quote comes from Gandhi and I think is perhaps the ultimate TL,DR on the Band of Brothers/Goonswarm wars, at least from the Goonswarm perspective.
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
Now, some may dispute that Gandhi ever said this and attribute the quote to U.S. trade unionist Nicholas Klein.  But as yesterday was the anniversary of the assassination of Gandhi, I thought I'd give those who credit the Indian leader with the quote.  Besides, who's going to credit something intelligent to someone in an NPC corp? 2


1.  The text version is found here.

2.  Artistic license abused.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Countdown To ... What?

In all the excitement over the Battle of B-R5RB, I don't know how many people missed the appearance of a countdown clock over on the EVE Online community site.  The burning question is many minds is: countdown to what?  What will CCP unveil on 5 February at 1500 GMT?

Of course, the intrepid explorers of Tweetfleet (led by the most intrepid explorer, Mark726) had answers and tweeted them out yesterday.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Patch Day

Yesterday was the launch of Rubicon 1.1.  Admittedly I don't think the patch will affect me at all, although I haven't seen the new UI changes yet.  The feature that adds the training time to reach a certain mastery level for a ship is pretty cool, but nothing that would make me log in and have to see right away.  After finding out that the display of pilots' status in the chat channels was broken, I decided I'd wait until today to log in since CCP Explorer tweeted that a hotfix installed during downtime today would fix the issue.  While I'm happy that bots were broken for a day, I just figured I'd make sure no blues tried to shoot me.

I should add that I know what the issue is. Since the only difference between the Singularity test shard and Tranquility is that CCP Punkturis has pink chat text on Singularity and not on Tranquility, the answer is obvious.  Give CCP Punkturis pink chat text on Tranquility.  I think you could persuade her to make the sacrifice.

That doesn't mean I didn't do anything EVE-related yesterday.  I listened to Big Country's EVE Radio show on my iPhone until I could get home and log into Twitch.  That got me caught up with the latest on the patch and with the aftermath of the B-R fight Monday.  Today I'll find out what really happened (maybe), as Goonswarm fleet commander Lazarus Telraven and Pandemic Legion's Manfred Sideous were intereviewed yesterday by the Crossing Zebras podcast.  The podcast is available now, which impresses me.  I guess that's why they are the CCP-certified #1 podcast in EVE history.

So if I didn't log into EVE, what did I do?  After looking at the secondary ISK market (which is leaking sellers again) I switched from the EVE Radio Twitch stream to Funky Bacon's Twitch stream and watched him play The Secret World.  I know that watching someone play a video game isn't as fun as playing yourself, but the handful of us watching and helping Funky out when the going got tough was fun.  So much fun that afterward I updated my client and rolled a new character.  I stopped when I got inside Solomon Island because of the time, but with a new computer since I last played, the game looked great.  Now if the Templars didn't have the best looking clothing rewards for completing decks.  Oh well, I guess I can't have everything.

So that's a quick rundown on my day when CCP releases a new patch for EVE Online.  Probably not what non-EVE players expect.  But that's why we always set long skills before a patch.  While we didn't need it this time, something always seems to happen.  I realize that's the case with every MMORPG I've ever played, but maybe when CCP finally gets rid of all the legacy spaghetti code we can have nice things with less pain.  Both for us and for the poor programmers who have to work with that ...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 28 January 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 26 January 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 45.1 13,071-3.6
22Guild Wars 214.74,245+17.2
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.43,022-2.5
44Final Fantasy XIV6.11,780-4.1
56EVE Online4.31,247+1.5
911Lord of the Rings Online2.6745-16.4
118Planetside 22.3659-32.5
12--Maple Story1.7482+72.8
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 28,954

The Xfire community continued its slow decline Sunday, with members playing MMORPGs 3% less hours than the week before.  The games suffering the biggest loss in playtime were World of Warcraft (-495 hours) and Planetside 2 (-318 hours).  The game with the biggest gain was Guild Wars 2 (+623 hours).  Need for Speed World dropped from the list after a one week stay and was replaced by Maple Story.

The Living Story Returns - Guild Wars 2 posted a 17.2% increase in playtime Sunday as ArenaNet began releasing the last installments of the Living Story last Tuesday.  After a few months the impact of the every other week patches lessened, but after a six week absence players were definitely waiting for new content.

A Ban Wave - Last week Blizzard launched a ban wave against users of a bot used both in PvP and by raiders.  Many of the bans were for 72 hours, meaning that players were able to log in on Sunday.  From the numbers posted, not many in the Xfire community were affected.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Blizzard Of Tears: Botters Banned In World Of Warcraft

"I got a 72hr on my main. But if it makes you feel any better i've lost about 30 accounts over the last 2 years."

I originally planned on trying to make a scholarly post using the words of botters to illustrate the differences between CCP's and Blizzard's methods of dealing with botters and hackers.  But after reading Blizzard's ban policy, I gave up on that thought.

The Penalty Volcano: Blizzard's Ban Policy

The reason that I bring up the ban policy is to prepare those reading this post for the confusion that ensued.  For example, in EVE Online, CCP will ban botters 30 days for a first offense and issue a permanent ban for a second offense.  Blizzard is a little more flexible, with no set penalties and with nothing between 3 days and permanent.  The confusion begins below the cut.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Blizzard Kills A Bot

I don't know how much the mainstream gaming media has covered the story, but apparently Blizzard dropped the ban hammer on quite a few botters in World of Warcraft over the past two days.  Well, WoW players are calling PQR, which I believe is the application in question, a bot.  I would call it a macro, but as macros are legal in WoW, I believe bot gets used to avoid confusion.

Image edited to show the last edit date.
According to the official description on the OwnedCore forums, PQR was:

"PQR is a bot designed to perform complex DPS, healing and tanking rotations for the player. It was mainly designed to reduce the tediousness of performing a complex rotation for hours on end, which for many can be a huge relief and provide them with a better WoW experience where they may have wanted to quit in other cases."
Note that I indicated "was"?  That is because, as the graphic above shows, that the download link was removed from OwnedCore's forums, probably at 4:02pm yesterday, Central Standard Time (GMT -6).  Since the application was freeware, Blizzard can't go after the developer's wallet, but if the lawyers were able to track down Xelper, perhaps he was persuaded to cooperate.

Someone posted a rumor that 510 thousand accounts were banned.  The users of PQR apparently believe that people who used the application in PvE were receiving 72 hour bans and those using the hack in PvP were receiving permanent bans.  The fact that Xelper took down the link has led to some conspiracy theories on the forums similar to ones seen when the EVE bot RoidRipper closed down due to aggressive action by CCP.

The story is ongoing, and the MGM will need to cover the story if highly ranked Arena players were caught in the ban wave.  I'll go through all the information I have and post something more comprehensive on Monday.  And for those of you who want to read some tears, I'll leave a link to the official ban wave thread.

UPDATE: I'm not so sure PQR is permanently dead.  I tracked down the statement people were using to say it was.

"I'm going out for the night, and I just want to be clear: I am not sure if PQI was the reason for detection. I am just saying that listening on that addon channel was a bad idea, and a potential avenue for detection. There are others. If people were banned for using PE (and have never touched PQR/PQI) There is certainly another. Another thought is that Blizzard may be able to see what addons are running, but these are all guesses for now. I highly suggest people do not continue to use PQR."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Exploration And Tranquility Concurrency Numbers

In yesterday's post I forgot to mention my experience with exploration in Odyssey and how it could impact the average concurrent user number.

Rhavas put my thoughts into something intelligible yesterday.

Before Odyssey, when I ran anomalies I used two accounts.  One would scan down the sites and hack the cans while the other stood overwatch and killed all the rats that appeared.   That did tend to limit the area I would cover, because moving a non-cloaky ship around low sec does entail some risk.  If CCP hadn't announced the exploration changes, I probably would have purchased a Tengu or a Loki to run around in.

Because of Odyssey, I didn't need to train up, and then save up, for an all-purpose exploration ship.  I was free to cut loose and roam around in a singe ship.  While I only roamed through Heimatar, I was able to rake in more loot, even if I needed to visit more sites to do so.  So I may have spent more time exploring, but as I was only logged on with one account, I counted less toward the average concurrent user numbers because I no longer used two accounts.  So, even though I played more right after the release of Odyssey, I contributed to that sharp drop following the expansion's launch.

I really have the feeling that mine is not an isolated story.  I also believe that CCP made a conscious design decision to try to open up exploration to more people.  In addition to making probing a lot easier, the devs also decreased the ship requirements so tech 3 cruisers or multi-boxing was a significant advantage. 

Of course, many people didn't like the changes to exploration and went off to do other things in game.  I wonder how many of those people started doing things that required less accounts logged into EVE than they were using in exploration.  So in addition to the ice belt and null sec anomaly changes, we can add exploration to the changes designed to lower the concurrent user number.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

CCP's War On Bots: The Graph And Speaking For The Devil

I know that a lot of discussion is occurring withing the EVE blogosphere about what the average concurrent users graph on actually means for the future of EVE Online.  Some view the 24.2% decline in the average concurrent user number in the 15 weeks following the launch of Odyssey with alarm.  They see the expansion as a failure and even a sign that EVE has finally reached its peak and is doomed to decline.  Some news outlets have even confused the ACU graph with subscription numbers, thus contributing to the alarm.  At the point, all but the most optimistic only see a best case scenario that EVE will hold onto its current numbers and the ACU graph will continue to show a plateau.

Let me play devil's advocate for a bit.  Did that big drop occur because players abandoned the game, or because CCP made some decisions that they intended to produce a drop in the number of accounts logged into the game at the same time?  I believe that CCP did intentionally did two things that resulted in lower concurrent user numbers.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 21 January 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 19 January 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 45.4 13,566-6.9
22Guild Wars 212.13,622-5.3
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.43,098+13.1
44Final Fantasy XIV6.21,857-16.6
65EVE Online4.11,229+5.3
810Planetside 23.3977+32.7
118Lord of the Rings Online3.0891-8.3
12--Need For Speed World1.5456+1.5
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 29,853

I'm running out of ways to state that the Xfire community spent less time playing MMORPGs on Sunday than it did the week before.  Sunday's decline of 2.5% was led in absolute terms by World of Warcraft, which witnessed a decline of 1002 hours.  The games experiencing the biggest gains were Star Wars: The Old Republic (+358 hours) and Planetside 2 (+241 hours).  Runescape fell off the list after a two week run and was supplanted by Need For Speed World.

Galactic Starfighter, Phase 2Star Wars: The Old Republic experienced a 13.1% increase in time spent in the Star Wars universe following the release of patch 2.5.2.  This is the patch that granted Preferred players access to the Galactic Starfighter content as well as introduced new ships and the return of Bounty Contract Week, which ends today.  However, Galactic Starfighter has not proven to be the EVE killer, as EVE Online experienced a 5.3% increase in play time on Sunday.  Perhaps when the feature is made available to F2P players on 4 February.

A Reasonable Explanation, But... - Final Fantasy XIV saw a 16.6% decline in the number of hours the Xfire community spent playing the Square Enix product.  While tempting to blame the expiration of a one-week offer to inactive players to try the game again, that's not the whole reason.  In the week before that, Xfire activity in the game decreased by 8%.

Another Way Of Looking At The Numbers - The Digital Dozen looks at the number of hours the Xfire community spends playing games, not at the number of people actually playing.  But what would I find if I had the time to manually go through the games (and Xfire remained reliable enough) and also record the number of players?  I didn't go through all of the games, just the ones on this week's list, and found that ranking by players would make the list look a bit different.

GameDD RankPlayersAvg Hours Played
World of Warcraft126635.1
Guild Wars 229713.7
Star Wars: The Old Republic36264.9
Planetside 283352.9
EVE Online63064.0
Final Fantasy XIV42856.5
Need For Speed World122651.7
Lord of the Rings Online112204.0

The Digital Dozen is purposefully designed to weight a player's activity based on the hours spent in game.  If I just counted whether a person logged into a game on Sunday, then the EVE Online player who just logged in for 2 minutes to update his skill queue would count the same as the World of Warcraft player who spent 6 hours raiding. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Trying To Stay Non-Political (In-Game)

Has anyone noticed the trend in which game companies really want player feedback?  SOE is pretty visible with its weekly Round Table polls asking about how players about EverQuest Next development issues.  Back in August, ArenaNet held an in-game "election" to the Captain's Council to determine the course of Guild Wars 2's Living Story.  But the most frequent model is the game devs trying to form what is, in effect, a focus group.  Turbine created a player council in Lord of the Rings Online in April and are in the process of creating one for Dungeons and Dragons Online now.  The members of those councils are selected by Turbine.  Bioware went one step further and actually held elections for a group of class representatives back in July.

Of course, EVE Online has had such a group of player advisers, the Council of Stellar Management, in existence since May 2008.  Currently in its eighth incarnation, the CSM brings another layer of reality to the virtual world, albeit with a lot of detractors.  Some people want to lead while others cover the election process with a greater professionalism than we've seen in MSM muster in recent U.S. presidential elections.  After all, internet spaceships is serious business.

I listened to the latest CSM town hall on EVE Radio yesterday and discovered that EVE's next silly, er, I mean election season basically begins after the Winter Summit, which begins Wednesday and ends on Friday.  Normally, internet spaceship politics is an amusing aspect of EVE that I sit back and enjoy.  Well, except for last year when the new election rules left me baffled.  But I'm starting to get a bad feeling about this election cycle.

Normally, I wouldn't worry about what I might post about the CSM election.  This blog is small enough, and my knowledge of EVE is noobish enough, that what I think and type about the CSM and the great issues of the day really doesn't matter.  I really only have one specialty concerning EVE: the study of CCP's efforts to combat botting and the selling of ISK on the secondary markets.  Given some of the events of the past year though (i.e. SOMERblink), the subject might come up and people might pay attention to my opinions.  Yikes!

I'm also starting to get a bad feeling about some of the issues that may arise.  Yes, I know that I can see bots and RMT where others don't, but what happens if I begin to point that out?  One of the worst accusations to throw around is that someone either favors or actually approves of botting and illicit RMT.  Sure, I know that the people throwing around some of the ideas have no clue of the implications their ideas may have on EVE's shadow economy, but do you think people engaged in a political campaign are going to care?  I know, I know.  I really should stop asking rhetorical questions.

I'm beginning to think I should just avoid this whole CSM election thing.  I have the feeling I may wind up posting about some of the issues anyway, but maybe I can couch my writing into something that isn't EVE-specific.  When are the elections again?

Friday, January 17, 2014

CCP's War On Bots And Illicit RMT: Forgot To Stop

While CCP lost another familiar face in its war on bots and illicit RMT in EVE Online, that doesn't mean the war is over.  All indications show that CCP Peligro and the rest of the gang (whoever they are) are still hard at work.  At least the folks running the Questor bot know first hand:

7 January
Echu - "12 down, no rmt, diff ip 7-8h per day, fresh chars, The reason specified was: EULA/TOS Violation"

11 January
bbday - "did you use vpn?"

14 January

Echu - "yes"
15 January

bbday - "this is the problem: maybe another people that use same vpn was banned for rmt/client modification and then ccp ban all people with same ip logged in same time.  You can also open a petion and say to ccp why you banned me... maybe they can say because some people with same ip and doing bad thing... better idea say them i used a vpn because i have network restrition on my office."
16 January
Echu - "No, I rented a server, buy IP-addresses and put own vpn server. Petition opened, but no answer."

For those with a long memory, bbday was mentioned in Eve News 24's Honey Botter botting exposé.

This little story helps demonstrate why a slow, constant ban process is better than big ban waves.  Whenever caught, botters will petition on the chance a GM will lift the ban.  Big ban waves wind up overwhelming customer service desks, affecting real customers with real problems.  Smaller numbers are more manageable for game companies to staff for.

Looking at my inbox, I received two interesting emails this week.  The first was from a German player who received a ban for something he posted in the German help channel.  Someone was asking what an ISK spammer was, so he created his own example.  A few seconds later, he was logged out of the game and when he attempted to log back in he was given a message stating he was banned for a EULA/ToS violation.  He figures that because an ISK spammer 6 weeks previously was able to spam for a half-hour that CCP has now instituted some automatic detection.  As he put it:
"As I was banned within seconds I feel like finally there is an automatic script scanning the chats and this script is allowed to make permanent bans (even an english speaking GM would have had seen that I was giving an example using a fictional price and an invalid URL to answer the question... so I guess there was no GM involved)."
He put in a petition, but he thought he'd let me know about the automatic detection.

The second email came from a diligent corps recruiter who, when handed the recruit's API, saw the recruit's transaction history.  A little digging led the recruiter to catch the recruit in a lie over some questionable transactions.  The recruit admitted to buying ISK from AvatarBank.  However, the ISK seller gave the recruit items ranging from carrier skillbooks to wormhole ribbons instead of directly giving ISK.  Was this due to trying to avoid detection by CCP or as a result of the ISK shortage back in late summer and early autumn?  A pretty good piece of anecdotal evidence since we haven't heard any official word on exactly what happened.

Speaking of ISK sellers, the project I referenced in yesterday's post involves trying to track the amount of ISK sold on  Last month I did a post where I made some guesses at the amount of real world cash used to purchase virtual currency.  I'm glad to say that half-way through my effort that it looks like I wildly overestimated the amount of transactions.  While I can't definitively state how much, I'm pretty sure that the numbers aren't as bad for EVE Online ISK as I thought.  Based on the parameters I listed, I originally thought that around $50,000 worth of ISK passed through the site on a monthly basis.  But after 15 days, I've only tracked 442 billion ISK in sales for a total of $8,479.32.  Looks like I'll have to go back and update that post when I finish the study.

Did I mention that PlayerAuctions has a review system?  Apparently the site isn't entirely safe to use.

I probably need to learn how to use something like Photoshop, but Paint was good enough to put together this collection of displeased customers.  And yes, those last two were complaints about the same PLEX seller.  For some reason, he took down his PLEX sell order yesterday.

Finally, I don't have a chart showing the prices for ISK sellers, but another seller of virtual currency stopped selling ISK.  A site called MMOXE removed references to EVE Online on 7 or 8 January.   That makes 8 sites that I've monitored that have stopped selling ISK since the middle of September.  That's pretty impressive since I only have 13 sites on my list.  In contrast, I also have a list of 12 sites for Runescape and none of them have stopped selling gold over the same period of time.

That's just a quick review of what's happened in EVE's shadowy world of botting and illicit RMT over the past two weeks or so.  I hope to have some graphs and charts and stuff in another couple of weeks, so I hope this will hold everyone over until then.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Less Writing, More Low Sec

Lately I'm spending too much time following the herd in the EVE blogosphere and not enough time logged into the game.  I should add that part of the reason I don't log in enough is my own damn fault.  I have a research project related to illicit RMT I'm doing that requires about 30 minutes of data entry a night.  The results so far are making me happy but I can't wait for the end of the month when I finish.

I started to fall into the trap with Blog Banter 52.  Kirith's subject lined up perfectly with the closing of  All those graphs and charts I've made recently?  They took a lot of time to make because I don't know that much about making graphs and charts in Office 2012.  So not only am I learning a lot about the behavior of the EVE player base, but I'm learning Excel at the same time.  I can't say I regret diving into the subject, and I have two more posts planned.  With everything I'm learning, I feel more optimistic about EVE's short term future.

I think what alerted me to the trap I was falling into was Ripard Teg's posts on wanting to give everyone 25 million skill points allocated into the core skills.  His writing on the subject has me alternating between rage and depression.  I don't think I would feel that way if he were not on the CSM.  So I did what is becoming my policy and waited 48 hours before writing about the subject.  But when the 48 hours were up, I still felt the same way.  Actually worse, because in that time I read Troy Wexler's excellent response to Blog Banter 52.  I saw a lot of the attitude Troy wrote about his experiences in null sec embedded in Ripard's proposal.

I could go off on a rant against Ripard's concept.  But I'm not.  While on the train ride home yesterday I read Sugar's post from Tuesday.  Then I realized that Ripard's thoughts weren't important.  Not everthing in EVE is negative.  What was important was getting back into space.  I play EVE to relax and get my mind off of the problems of the real world for an hour or two.  So when I got home, I did my daily data entry, ate dinner, and started flying around.  I purchased Gas Cloud Harvester IIs in Hek, then flew around collecting datacores from my agents.  Did I mention how wonderful the warp speed changes are?  And at the end of the night I felt much better.  Well, right up until the time my stupid computer automatically decided to update Windows.  Thankfully it happened right before I was about to jump from high to low sec.  But Microsoft happens.

As for Ripard's proposal?  Unless CCP is using Ripard as a trial balloon, I'll just type one sentence.  If CCP starts giving out 25 million skill points in the core skills, botters and ISK sellers will rejoice.

But enough of unpleasant thoughts.  I want to stay positive and low sec is the place for that for me.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why Rixx Is Right

Plateau? Maybe. Anything is possible. But this chart doesn't prove anything one way or the other.

If a blog banter is supposed to stimulate conversation across the Eve-o-sphere, then Kirith Kodachi's idea for Blog Banter 52 was brilliant.  As a device for looking at the future of EVE, Chribba's all-time average concurrency chart is perfect.  As the chart is relatively flat for the past 3-4 years, that plateau gives bloggers answering the call a relatively stable platform to jump from and make predictions of EVE's future.  But as Rixx stated in his own response to the topic, the chart by itself does not prove or disprove anything.

I think I'm at the point where I can back Rixx up and offer historical proof from Tranquility that just because the chart trends down that the subscription1 numbers do also.  On Monday I posted the results obtained by merging the data from with the data set containing EVE's subscription numbers maintained by  I then made a chart showing the changes in the average concurrent user and subscription numbers on Tranquility during five separate periods ranging from 6 to 28 months in length, shown below.

Falling activity does not mean falling subscription numbers

The first range, from July 2011 to March 2012, shows the one time I found when the activity on Tranquility increased by the number of subscriptions decreased.  Of course, that time period includes the Summer of Rage and the launch of Skyrim so I imagine that EVE was still suffering from all the rage quits and Elder Scrolls love.  However, those who remained were excited by Crucible and managed to make up the difference.

The next four entries are examples of when the ACU declined at least 8.5% but the number of subscriptions reported to MMOData increased.  The first period, January 2010 to September 2010, includes the launch of Tyrannis and the introduction of planetary interaction.  I'm going to guess that the reason for subs going up was an increase in PI alts combined with people getting aching hands from the PI click-fest that was the first iteration of the new feature.

The second period, from May 2009 to November 2009, is one of my favorites.  Anyone guessing that is when Unholy Rage occurred has probably visited the blog a few times before today.  The fact that EVE went 8 1/2 months without an expansion (Apocrypha launched in March) also contributed to the number of subscriptions going up and the ACU going down.

The third period, from January 2011 to July 2011, is very interesting.  That is the period right before Monoclegate and the "Greed is Good" disclosure brought CCP to its knees.  Players saw the declining activity and wondered what CCP was thinking.  CCP saw the 7.9% increase in subscriptions and figured everything was working great.  Sometimes numbers lie.

The last period I don't have a good answer as to why the numbers are so different.  From January 2010 to May 2012, the number of average concurrent users declined from 32,492 to 27,764 (-14.6%) but the number of subscriptions rose from 325,134 to 363,851 (11.9%).  While I don't have an explanation, I think this period is the perfect example for why Rixx titled his post, "The Graph Is A Lie".

So does this mean we shouldn't worry about the 9.7% decline in the ACU number from 33,911 in May 2013 down to 30,637 in December?  I have some thoughts on that, but I'll save them for another post.  What I do feel confident about stating is that if you see a website proclaiming falling subscription numbers for EVE Online, if that site is relying on the chart for Tranquility as the only source of information, you may want to take the claim with a grain of salt.  As far as I know, that information is securely housed within the offices of CCP.


1.  When I use the term subscription, I am referring to an EVE Online account, not a person.

2.  The numbers for average concurrent users and subscriptions from January 2009 to May 2012 are listed in the second chart in Monday's post.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 14 January 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 12 January 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 47.6 14,568+0.9
22Guild Wars 212.53,823-6.2
33Star Wars: The Old Republic8.92,740-4.6
44Final Fantasy XIV7.32,227-8.0
55EVE Online3.81,167-16.6
88Lord of the Rings Online3.2972-9.1
1011Planetside 22.4736-2.5
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 30,621

The Xfire community resumed its slow decline in playing MMORPGs on Sunday, with this week's decline in playing the 12 most popular games declining by 3.7%.  Ten of the twelve games lost ground, with Guild Wars 2 (-253 hours) and EVE Online (-233 hours) leading the way.  The two games that attracted more time played Sunday were World of Warcraft (+134 hours) and Neverwinter (+89 hours).

Server Merges and Hotfixes - On Thursday Blizzard connected six sets of World of Warcraft realms.  As far as I can tell, "connecting realms" is very close to actually merging the servers.   Combined with the deployment of hotfixes on Friday, was that enough to keep the overall player base interested.  I don't know, but the Xfire community actually spent slightly more time on Sunday playing WoW as compared to the week before.

Don't Blame Elder Scrolls - Despite conducting a beta test weekend, I highly doubt that Elder Scrolls Online is the cause of the across the board drop in playtime Sunday.  Usually when a beta has that type of effect, the game is visible in the Xfire rankings.  I didn't see that Sunday.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Putting The Graph Into Context: 2006 - 2012

I've now read all of the entries for Blog Banter 52 through Khanid Kataphract's entry and I have to say I'm impressed by the quality of writing so far.  I'm also glad to see that some bloggers have used the data set to help explain their thoughts.  Following in Mabrick's footsteps, TurAmarth and Splatus dug deep and extracted some good information.  Not that they were the only ones using the data, but they used some different data that compared EVE and EVE's potential audience to those of other games.

While this post is not a part of BB52, I thought I'd do something I haven't seen yet.  That's right, combine the data from Chribba's chart with the data set.  So instead of playing EVE, I geeked out and played with spreadsheets for the past few days.  What follows is the result.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Data Wants To Be Free

I really hate when I can't write a post because the numbers don't add up.  I had a nice theory about why the famous concurrency graph on Chribba's appears stuck at 30,000 concurrent users.  All I had to do is convert the weekly averages displayed by Chribba into a monthy average, then compare that against the MMOData dataset of EVE Online subscription numbers, make a couple of graphs, type some words, and then look like a genius.  I did this for January 2009 to May 2012.  Sadly, my theory fell apart.

Happily, because I just didn't post my theory without doing my due diligence, I don't look like a complete idiot.  I do see a pattern emerging, but I need to convert the EVE Offline numbers into monthly averages going back to March 2006 to see the actual pattern.  While I won't go so far as to say the graph is a lie, I do think that many take the graph out of context.

Of course, putting the graph into context is harder because CCP stopped supplying hard subscription numbers to the public after May 2012.  I believe that whoever made the decision at CCP would argue that with the reopening of Serenity that mixing the Chinese figures with the subscribers on Tranquility would not really result in good numbers.  But perhaps not.  CCP did announce the EVE Online had surpassed 500,000 subscribers in February 2013, and those figures included China.

In reality, I think that most players are more interested in the number of subscriptions logging into Tranquility, as Serenity is a completely different world.  I know that I am.  The subscription numbers after May 2012 would really show the effect of the War on Bots on EVE.

Right now the only data point I have for Tranquility after May 2012 was provided by the CSM elections in March 2013.  I haven't checked the math personally, but a commenter noted that based on the turnout, the number of subscriptions was between 408,000 and 410,000, which indicated a 10th consecutive year of growth on Tranquility, not just EVE as a whole.  Why bring up the consecutive growth record?  Because I believe that CCP stopped supplying the subscription numbers to Ibe Van Geel because, for the first time, the numbers in July 2012 would not show year over year growth.

I know that Hilmar brought in people from places like Trion and EA in order to bring some professionalism and better practices into CCP following the Summer of Rage.  But one of those standards is trying to obfuscate the subscription numbers, something that CCP had traditionally, unlike most of the industry, provided transparency on.  I think that the outside professionals missed that the player base still has tools to judge the health of the game.  But until CCP decides to remove the API that give players access to the information, we are going to use it, even if the numbers by themselves are imperfect because they lack context.  If CCP would release the subscription numbers every so often, perhaps the players wouldn't keep wondering and trying to figure things out on their own.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Enjoying Blog Banter 52

I normally don't get into the whole blog banter concept, but I think Kirith Kodachi has really knocked it out of the park with the topic for Blog Banter 52:
Go to the always useful ( and take a look at the All Time (weekly average) graph for concurrent accounts logged in.

For the past four and a half years, the graph has hovered around that 30,000 mark; it is, for all intents and purposes, a plateau. But everything must come to an end sooner or later and that is what this blog banter is about.
What's on the other side of that plateau? 
Is there any path for CCP to follow to raise those numbers upwards for a sustained period, or is EVE going to enter a decline to lower logged in numbers from this point?

How soon will we see an end to this plateau? Months? Years? Or will you argue that 'never' is a possibility? Or you can look at the root causes of the plateau and tackle the question if it could have been avoided or shortened if CCP had taken different actions in the past.

Also, what would EVE be like with an order of magnitude fewer or more players?
So far I've only read Rixx, Kirith, and Mabrick's posts.  Very interesting reading and I can't wait to read the rest of the submissions.  Between writing my Digital Dozen column and about the War on Bots as much as I have, I've used Chribba's website a lot.  So I wonder if anyone is going to mention this chunk of the graph?

Source:, Chribba's OMG Labs, 9 Jan 2014

In fairness, Mabrick brought the subject up, but the 24.2% drop in the average concurrent users from the week of 6 June to the week of 19 September is pretty spectacular.  I've written about the reasons in the past, but that picture says more than I did in thousands of words.  I probably need to write a post with this graphic as the centerpiece even if others have explained the drop already.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

MMOData Closing Shop

I'm a couple of weeks late with the news, but MMOData published its last chart on 28 December.  The site with the best collection of subscription numbers for MMORPGs will shut down in June.  Ibe Van Geel posted the following reason:
"The biggest reason is that it is getting increasingly difficult to get any useful numbers. Also many of the subscription based MMORPG's went free to play, and their companies tend to not give out useful active accounts numbers."
Van Geel had a pretty good relationship through the years with CCP, even receiving data about EVE Online throughout the Summer of Rage in 2011, showing the ultimate 7.2% drop in subscriptions before the Crucible expansion drove numbers higher again.  But that relationship apparently ended in the summer of 2012, as the last data point for the Tranquility server was for May 2012.  Van Geel had this to say about the Icelandic game company:
"As for the only growing subscription based MMORPG left, EVE Online, I no longer receive subscription numbers. CCP no longer responds to my requests.

"It is a shame really, I doubt that their numbers are declining, but I lost a bit of confidence in CCP, I hope they will give out useful numbers to the public on a consistent basis."
Since then, the only announcement of EVE Online subscriptions was made on 28 February 2013 when CCP put out a press release announcing that the game had surpassed 500,000 accounts.  However, that number included China and players wound up estimating that Tranquility was home to approximately 400,000 accounts.

I'd also like to hope that CCP will once again regularly release subscription statistics.  I realize that the industry practice is to not release numbers unless absolutely necessary, like Activision does for World of Warcraft during its quarterly investor calls.  But one of the things I like about CCP is its openness to the players about things other companies try to hide.  At this point the only indicator the players have of the health of EVE is the average concurrency chart Chribba provides at

So if anyone is interested, Van Geer has made the charts and data he has collected over the years available for downloading.  The links are:
- The archive :
- The blogspot :
And to Ibe Van Geer, thanks for all the work you put into making MMOData such a valuable resource. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 7 January 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 5 January 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 45.3 14,434+6.2
22Guild Wars 212.84,076+12.3
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.02,872+6.0
44Final Fantasy XIV7.62,421+10.9
56EVE Online4.41,400+11.9
88Lord of the Rings Online3.41,069+3.5
1112Planetside 22.4755-2.6
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 31,807

2014 started out well as the Xfire community spent 5% more time playing the its 12 favorite MMORPGs as compared to the week before.  Games leading the surge were World of Warcraft (+846 hours) and Guild Wars 2 (+446 hours) while the game experiencing the biggest drop was Need for Speed World (-246 hours).  The drop in popularity also dropped NFSW out of the list.  Runescape replaced the game, making its first appearance after a nine week absence.

Making up for lost time.  Is part of the reason for the surge a desire to make up for lost time?  Of the top 5 games showing the greatest gains Sunday, only Final Fantasy XIV was not hit with a DDoS attack by DERP Trolling.  I would have included Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I'm not sure if the attack on took down access to SWTOR.  The only game attacked that saw less time spent playing on Sunday was Planetside 2.

Happy Birthday!  Of course, part of Runescape's rise is probably based on players celebrating the game's 13th anniversary on Saturday.  I imagine that part of the celebration continued on Sunday.  At least, Xfire players were celebrating.

Updated Data.  For those interested, I have updated the Google document with all of the Digital Dozen data with all of the 2013 information.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back To Exploring

Ever since finishing my Sisters of EVE grind a few weeks back I just hadn't felt like playing EVE.  That changed this weekend as I hopped in my Cheetah and started scanning down sites again.

Saturday was an interesting time as I managed to finally find where all the gas sites are.  I found them scattered throughout non-Factional Warfare low sec in Heimatar.  I have to take a closer look but I think I could get into sucking gas into a Venture as a new activity, especially if it is profitable.  I've added Gas Cloud Harvesting V and Mining Frigate V to Wandering Rose's skill queue so I can take full advantage of my discovery.  I was a bit disappointed with my take when I ran a data site.  Only 2 million ISK in drops.  Yikes!  But I didn't have a guide in front of me and I pretty much forgot what cans I was supposed to scoop up.  Score one for stupidity on my part.

On Sunday I went over to the EVE University wiki and pulled up the information on the scatter containers and had the page open.  I also decided that I wanted to make some big money, so I headed out into null sec.  But I didn't want to crash in on an alliance and the intelligence networks they use to protect themselves, so I headed out to NPC null.

I had heard that if I wanted to travel in null sec, just traveling from gate to gate in a ship that is not interdiction nullified like an interceptor or a tech 3 cruiser was a bad idea.  Even though I was only going to make a bookmark at the gate instead of jumping through, I still warped to an asteroid belt in order not to make a straight line jump.  Since I was already there, I made a bookmark near the asteroid belt as well, just in case.  I then set a course to land 100 km from the gate and ... wound up in a bubble.

I didn't panic.  Almost, but not quite.  First, I checked to see if my cloak broke.  Nope, still cloaked.  Next, check my overview to see if any other ships were on grid.  None visible, which meant no cloud of drones would come looking for me trying to decloak me.  Good.  Next, identify the edge of the bubble and fly out of it.  Easy peasy.

Having escaped the bubble, I went ahead an proceeded to make my bookmark.  During this time I saw a couple of ships come by, either getting caught in the bubble or checking to make sure the bubble still worked.  I then decided that instead of traveling to the next gate that I'd visit another asteroid belt first.  So I traveled a good distance away from the belt, made my bookmark, and warped to a spot 100 km from my entry gate.

Or rather tried to.  That's right, I wound up in another bubble.  WTF!  After getting out of the bubble, I saw the row of 4 bubbles, two large and two small, lined up, each with a jet can in front of it.  I guess the jet can was present to decloak any ships as they flew directly from gate to gate.  Because I hit the bubble from an unexpected angle, I wasn't decloaked.  So I slowly motored away.

While making my bookmark on the gate, I saw that the patient tender of the bubbles got to make a kill.  I wish I wrote down what happened, but I saw a ship hit the wall of bubbles, another ship dive in, and then a pod appear.  I guess the victor tried to ransom the pod.  Either that or the loser didn't want to fly far because the pod turned on its self-destruct sequence.  At that point I realized I had not fit a salvager on my Cheetah.  I'll remember for next time.

In the second system I visited I found a relic site.  My first null sec exploration site!  I was a little nervous and abandoned a couple of hacking attempts when another pilot entered the system.  That was actually a good thing as one of the pilots was flying a Helios and tried to probe me down, using combat probes instead of scanner probes.  Thankfully combat probes don't work on stealthed ships.  I managed to eventually hack all the containers, but only got 4.5 million ISK in drops.  Well, and one tech 2 blueprint copy.  I guess Large Emission Scope Sharpener II rigs are fairly rare.  I can now make two of them.  Gives me an incentive to keep exploring and trying to find tech 2 salvage.

After booking marking 3 null sec systems and only finding combat and wormholes the rest of the time, I flew back to my home in low.  Along the way I found a few more gas sites and one more data site.  The site yielded another 2.2 million ISK in drops (two cans were empty) plus a 3-run BPC to make Medium Ancillary Shield Boosters. 

All in all, not the greatest weekend I've ever had exploring.  What saved the weekend was that I not only operated for a couple of hours in null sec, but that I also came away with my first tech 2 blueprint copy I've found.  Also, finding where I need to go in order to find gas clouds is a definite plus.  So perhaps I'm just better set up to have a more productive time next weekend.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Importance Of The CSM Minutes

I have to admit I wasn't tearing down the walls demanding the minutes from CSM 8's summer summit.  I tried to work up the outrage, honest, but I never really felt it.  But then I read a column about Lord of the Rings Online that made me see the light on why the minutes process, if not this particular set of minutes, is important.  This particular article dealt with the release of a producer's letter, and Massively's Justin Olivetti let loose with how he felt about LotRO's player council.
"OK, I've mentioned the player's council before a couple of times, but this whole concept irks me, particularly how often Paiz brings it up in her letter. I am not on the player council. You, most likely, are not either. But we have this group of people who have a higher level of access to the devs' ears engaging in projects and conversations that are kept from us. We're just told, as in this letter, that these discussions are going on and to trust Turbine that it's helping us and the game as a whole to have these players represent us. Why should we?
"I generally try my hardest not to remember that there is a player council because I feel that it's such a bad idea. It smacks of laziness, for one: "Let's make these hand-picked players collate feedback for us so that we have to really pay attention to only a dozen or so folks." The lack of transparency makes everyone nervous because important decisions and conversations are going on that affect us and we're not even privvy to the specifics after the fact. Finally, the whole thing feels as if Turbine has its "teacher's pets" that it fawns over while ignoring the rest of the community. I'm not saying this is the reality, just the feeling that it gives. And I know for a darn fact that I'm not the only one who sees it this way.

"I'd be really OK with dissolving the player council entirely. We didn't ask for it; we don't need it. I'm sure good folks are on it and try to do their best to help the game, but the formation and operation of it is so suspect that I can't give the council this benefit of the doubt. I think that as long as it remains, we have good reason to be wary."
Kind of different from the Council of Stellar Management, isn't it?  The CSM was formed in the wake of the T20 standard while Turbine decided they needed a way to get player feedback.  Unlike the CSM, LotRO's player council is selected by the devs, not elected by the player base.  Also, unlike the CSM, LotRO's player council does not have a history of coming into conflict with Turbine like the CSM has with CCP.

But here is the sentence that opened my eyes.  "The lack of transparency makes everyone nervous because important decisions and conversations are going on that affect us and we're not even privvy to the specifics after the fact."  Are these just the tears from a writer who wasn't given some easy material to make a buck?  Perhaps.  But given the restructuring of the classes that occurred in the latest expansion and the reaction I've read on the forums (yes, I know, official forums suck), perhaps having over 60 people who don't even play on your server helping making such far reaching changes is a bit unsettling.

I am not going to claim that CCP is perfect where the subject of transparency is concerned.  Businesses have the right to keep secrets and the NDA is not always just an excuse to hide an unpopular decision until the last minute.  But I do like the idea that CCP has a group like the CSM it can use as a focus group that it can bounce ideas off of.  The NDA does serve the purpose of keeping players from shooting monuments in Jita over an idea that never will see the light of day.

The minutes do serve a useful purpose.  They are the record of the discussions between CCP and the CSM about the changes in EVE.  Those discussions reveal the thinking of CCP about the changes (or lack of) in the game.  That was my thinking, although I think a lot less people will read them since the minutes were released 7 weeks after the launch of Rubicon

I think that's a problem.  If the CSM really wants the minutes to have a greater impact, they have to ensure they are released earlier.  I also think, if CCP really believes in the product it is producing, that the devs should want the minutes released earlier as well.  In the case of this set of minutes, I don't see the delay as more than a speed bump.  But once the big exploration changes hit in 2015, I think that CCP will find the CSM and the summit minutes a very useful way of showing that they didn't just come up with a bunch of crazy ideas in isolation on their island in the middle of the North Atlantic.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Year Ahead

This is the last of the traditional New Year's posts, just written and published one day late due to a DDoS attack, an EVE Radio contest, and a half-bottle of Jack Daniels.  Having written a review of botting and RMT plus a predictions post, the only thing left to write about are my plans for 2014.

I won't really go into my plans for EVE since I do that every August on the anniversary of creating my first account.  I will state I am officially not running for CSM 9.  Hopefully that announcement doesn't catch anyone by surprise.  Quite frankly, even if I was more knowledgeable about the game and better connected politically, that minutes process is a mess and I wouldn't want to get anyplace close to it.  Way too much work for me.

For gaming, I have two single-player games I really want to finish: Tropico 4 and Kerbal Space ProgramTropico 5 is due out sometime in 2014 and I'd like to finish Tropico 4 before the new game comes out.  I also haven't bought the Propaganda, The Academy, or Apocalypse DLCs.  I probably won't.  Kerbal Space Program is a very intriguing game.  I've played the tutorials and with the campaign game coming along I'd like to play that after I finish Tropico 4.

As for MMORPGs other than EVE, the only new one due out in 2014 I'm really excited about is Wildstar.  I'm interested in Landmark, but I won't pay to get into the alpha or beta.  Maybe something will come out of left field, but I've only got enough money for two subscription games and I don't seem to stick with the F2P games.  Maybe Landmark and EQNext in 2015 will change that.

I don't see the blog changing that much over 2014.  Perhaps more news about Wildstar as I play it.  One thing I plan on doing to looking into other games and how they are adapting concepts originated by CCP.  The most obvious is how companies like Jagex and Carbine are using their versions of PLEX.  Expect to see some posts with charts now that I've got 3 months of data on Runescape.

I do have to note that I plan on continuing the Digital Dozen through 2014, but if things don't get better for Xfire I may stop at the end of the year.  I like gathering the numbers, but at a certain point even I will admit that Xfire doesn't really tell us much.  But I'm not there yet.

So this finishes my year end posts for 2013.  Only 51 weeks until I get to do it again.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Stillman's Sendoff

Yesterday was CCP Stillman's last day at CCP.  In true EVE Online fashion, he was thrown one more challenge as EVE Online suffered a DDoS attack.  But he finished in time to attend the New Year's Eve party.

CCP Stillman is moving on to Syndis, an information security think-tank based in Reykjavik.  That means that Fanfest attendees have a chance of spotting him around town.  And if he decides to run for CSM again, people won't be able to use the argument that he just wants a free trip to Iceland.  He's already there.